It’s not as if America doesn’t love its citizens; it just loves its guns more, and that is the detestable truth
Growing up in the 1980s, my family was a big fan of the TV series How the West was Won, not to mention the dozens of American westerns that were all the rage. Hence, the concept of a white-hat cowboy carrying a loaded gun in his holster signalled all things good — protection from lawlessness and the preservation of life, liberty and freedom. But that was the norm in centuries past. Presently, all modern Western civil societies have strict gun control laws with the exception of the US, where the good, the bad, the ugly and the certifiable, are all allowed by law to carry a gun, periodically resulting in massacres of the innocent and the helpless.
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution reads: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This Amendment and its practical application have divided the country. The debate on it is passionate, and the emotion in its defence and attack, raw and bloody. Times and ideologies have evolved, the nature of threat to the sovereignty of the US has changed, and therefore the Amendment must be updated to represent the voice of the people. But it is not to be. The gun lobby and many Americans are not ready to give up or allow even a slight change in the language of the Amendment. Even a suggestion to this effect is considered a sacrilege by a big part of the country.
“We’ve not seen any movement on national gun law changes in recent years because of the Republican party’s ascendance at the national level and also because the gun lobby is very effective, politically, at mobilising their supporters. Also, the gun lobby has been fairly effective at advancing its message that gun laws don’t really matter. There is mounting evidence that gun laws do matter — especially to people who ought not to have access to guns — but that is not the prevailing political message that many or most Americans hear, which is that gun laws only restrict honest people and don’t have an effect on people who would do bad things with guns,” says Robert Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York at Cortland, who has published four books on gun control.
The gun lobby, in its strength, is colossal. This past summer a research survey conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that half of America believes that it is more important to protect gun rights than to control guns. Common sense gun laws, such as the requirement of a background check on individuals purchasing guns, attempts to establish a federal database to track gun purchases, as well as laws that may prevent the mentally ill from buying guns are also considered a threat to the Second Amendment.
The right to own guns is as American as baseball, apple pie and jeans; it is ingrained in the American psyche and is therefore impossible to extricate from society. An average American, born and raised on American history, will defend the right to bear arms with passion. Children study American history, and the fear and frustration of the founding fathers vis-a-vis the tyranny of the King of England against colonial America is palpable to them. They study that the rebellion by the people, instrumental in freeing America from the British, was only possible because of the guns the average American owned.
The owning of guns represents the most potent kind of freedom in American society, and even though the threats at the time of independence and civil war no longer exist, the gun lobby preys on the fears of modern America and equates any kind of debate on the issue of gun control to a threat to civil society.
Everyday acts of gun violence in households and routine massacres in public places are for some reason having the opposite effect, where gun advocates are reinforcing the perception that more guns are needed to arm individuals so they may protect themselves and the ones around them from gun violence. The voice of Barack Obama and those who believe in stricter gun control is being lost in politics and manipulation by gun lobbyists.
Will there be sensible legislations in regards to gun control? Looking at the opinions of Americans — young and old — seasoned politicians as well as the manipulation of the gun lobbyists, no change, minor or substantial, is expected in the near future. No, Americans are not ready to give up their guns; the reality of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the Columbine massacre, the Colorado movie theatre slaughter, the Virginia Tech bloodbath and the recent Oregon killings are routine reminders that America is prepared to let people die. It’s not as if it doesn’t love its citizens; it just loves its guns more, and that is the detestable truth, and the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2015.
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